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Spoke Notes Stamp

Peter Snow Cao
Spoke Notes

Killing in Kaili
Copyright © Peter Snow Cao, 1998.

Skip to:   Travelogue Index | China in October | November in Yangshou | Road to Taijang | Killing in Kaili | Grinding in Guiyang | Out in the Boonies | Land of Eternal Spring | Dali in December | Tiger Leaping Gorge | Doing Dali Again | Train to Guangzhou | Goodbye China!


Winter has arrived! This morning as we left Taijang we could see our breath. It was cold and damp; a light mist/rain prevailed and gray clouds hung low. We made a fairly early departure and rode for 40 km past some great landscapes. Again we made several climbs over the hills and at the top of one there were two trucks that went off the road, one of which slid about 40 meters down the bank. Many people were gathered around to watch the retrieval effort but their attention turned to us when we arrived.

After that, we passed some water powered grinding mills and rode along a very polluted river. White scum covered 50% of the surface. In the town where we stopped for lunch we talked with the locals in out best attempt yet in conversing in Chinese. I did it all without my book to help me. Rainer played a game of Chung-ge that he lost. The owner of the restaurant was so pleased we stopped there he didn't charge us for the meal.

After we left there the last 15 km to Kaili showed a dramatic change in the landscape. The terrain became hillier, less mountainous and the land was virtually stripped of all trees.

We arrived in Kaili about 3:30 PM and checked in at the government guesthouse; the only place in town we can stay. They tried to sell us a 36-yuan room, but we managed to get a 3-bed room for 12 yuan each.

After getting cleaned up with hot baths, we checked in and went into town. This is our first big town since Guilin and the first place that had a decent bakery since Guangzhou. So we pigged out on the baked goods and walked down the market street.

At the end there was a poultry section where many people were selling chickens, ducks and geese. The birds were sold live by weight hung by their legs on the hook of the unique Chinese scale. Once the sale was made, the birds were taken over to the most disgusting sight I'd ever seen yet in China, the slaughter area.

It was an area about 25 meters square where the birds first had their throats slashed and thrown into a basket to flop around until they bled to death. The blood drained into a large tub that would later be cooked and sold in dark red cubes resembling tofu. Then they were thrown into boiling water for a short while to loosen the feathers. Someone then removed the feathers and then stuck the bird into a vat of hot tar followed by several buckets of cold water. The tar would be removed and the bird was presented to the buyer where it would be either thrown on the bike in either the front basket, or clamped down under the spring-loaded rack on the rear with the head dangling on one side and the legs on the other. The entire area was covered with blood, feathers, and miscellaneous bird parts and incredibly sickening. When I tried to take some pictures, several people raised their arms in protest.

The ride was really cold. I had to stop and empty my bladder no less than seven times as my body tried to conserve heat by reducing mass (my own theory). I hope we get some warmer weather soon. I looked at jackets and bought a pair of tights. Oddly, I didn't see any gloves or hats for sale.

Halfway between Kaili and Guiyang
We are still in the closed area. We scouted for a place to stay and came across a small quarry with a shed. There is a house nearby so we have been careful to keep out of sight and ear. This is extremely difficult in China, as there are so many inquisitive ones about.

"Spot on!"

William Lindesay on our plans to cycle to Kunming.

The most significant event that occurred today was the very unfortunate development of a bottom bracket clank/grind. It started about 15 km ago. I checked the bearings and discovered a worn spot about 7 mm long on the left side. I can't get at the right side because the threads are stripped. What should I do about it? Riding with it like this is very distracting; it is noisy and bumpy. But the only harm is to the axle, bearing and the cup. I wonder how long I could get away with that? Getting replacement parts from Mr. Lee in Hong Kong is bound to be very expensive. If I can wait till I get back there it would it be much cheaper. Plus there is no guarantee I could get the parts to me anyway, given the mail system. I will loosen the cup a bit to see if that reduces the noise. I have 100 km to test it tomorrow on the way to Guiyang. Another possibility would be to have this axle repaired in a machine shop. I'm sure it could be done given the right tools and people. Welding a small patch and then grinding it down would probably be the easiest. But it takes time.

The ride was very strenuous (again), but also quite exhilarating as well. The landscape continues to fascinate me. It is interesting to watch the landform change as the kilometers roll by. This was also the first day we had a clear blue sky we have had in a while. The last time I saw the sun was in Yangshou. It is either because it is November or because we are at a high altitude, or both. One thing is certain; winter is quickly descending upon us. I started with long pants and a jacket when we left Kaili. Around 10 AM I was able to take off the jacket. But now I am wondering how it will be sleeping in the tent. I think we are at about 2000 meters (6,000+ feet) in altitude. I wish I had a hat and scarf. The next 3 days we should be staying in hotels so it won't be as critical.

6:30 PM and the light is fading very fast, I will have to get out the candles. Ah, the miracles of modern inventions! The temperature is dropping and I keep have to put more clothes on. A few nights ago we were too hot in the tent. How quickly conditions change. So many things to write about, I hardly know where to begin.

Some more observations: The Chinese restaurants (and homes as well) utilize very short stools or miniature chairs (about 6 - 8" high) and tables (about 18 - 24" high) compared to Western standards. They look like they are for children, but surprisingly they are quite comfortable and easy to get used to. The reason for this, I can only guess that it takes fewer materials to make, and thereby is much cheaper. The short stools are also easy to carry, as we have seen some school children doing at times.

And speaking of restaurants, we have had a few meals with the food cooked right at the table. A small round pressed coal brick is place in a firebox in the center of the table. Then a wok is placed on top and the food can be added as you eat. It is sort of like fondue.

The traffic on the road drops dramatically after dark. I think the government must restrict night driving to only essential vehicles. Today we were on the major road between Kaili and Guiyang in which there was the largest amount of traffic we have experienced since leaving Guangzhou. There wasn't too much in terms of volume, but the mixture of 50% trucks and buses and 50% small vehicles carrying heaps of government officials (Army, Police and Party members) made it rather stressful particularly as we watched all the heads turn to look at us. We expected to be stopped at any moment. There is no question the government knows where we are and where we are headed. I am surprised no one has questioned us. I guess this area isn't closed with regard to the road, as one must use it to get from Kaili to Guiyang.

Now I can see my breath - winter is here! We have entered another minority group area. The women's clothing style has changed dramatically. Now it is a striking blue base color with lots of embroidery and a flap behind from the waist to the knees. The women are also very attractive as well, though they are quite shy toward us. The women in the villages usually carry their babies in their backs into the fields for the day’s work. Today we saw for the first time the babies bundled up in warm blankets and wearing hats. The kids that are just beginning to walk usually have pants that have a slit in the crotch area so they can relieve themselves without using diapers and making a big mess in their pants. It is an interesting way of dealing with the pre-toilet trained kids. It seems to work very well although it is a bit of a shock initially to see kids peeing and pooping on the sidewalk or street. All they have to do is squat which also seems to come naturally to Asians.

The Asian squat also works as a portable chair. I once saw a man and his son, about 2 years old, squatting side by side watching the world go by together. One of the most striking things about China has been the seeming nonexistence of any spiritual life. We haven't seen any temples, shrines, or churches of any sort. Is this the Communist way?

This morning as we left Kaili, I stopped in front of a doctor’s office to take a picture of the advertisement sign in front of a doctor's office. It graphically showed the aliments that could be treated there; cuts, burns, ear infections (shown with blood coming out of the ear) and most shocking, the drawing of the back of a person with legs spread and blood dripping from the anus. I can only imagine it must have been time for Preparation H. When I tried to photograph the sign 2 guys of the second floor balcony stopped me. I don't know what they had against me taking a picture, but they looked like they could cause me trouble and I could end up losing a roll of film, if not my camera.

We went down to the market to eat and when we stopped we were "assaulted" by a guy who was apparently very drunk. He shook our hands continuously and bought us some fried bread. He made a big spectacle in front of the restaurant drawing a rather large crowd. Kaili seems to be still in the early stages of tourism as the locals seemed quite surprised to see us.

I just stopped outside of our shack for the night and was treated to the gorgeous sight of the Northern Hemisphere sky. My favorite constellation was there as well, the Pleiades (Seven Sisters). Such a clear moonless sky, so many stars are visible with few lights to interfere. The silence here is deafening. It seems like I could hear a pin drop a mile away.

On to  Grinding in Guiyang

Skip to:   Travelogue Index | Introduction | China in October | November in Yangshou | Road to Taijang | Killing in Kaili | Grinding in Guiyang | Out in the Boonies | Land of Eternal Spring | Dali in December | Tiger Leaping Gorge | Doing Dali Again | Train to Guangzhou | Goodbye China!

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